YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office has been using three drones for about six months now and they’ve been seeing more and more use.
In Monday morning’s pre-dawn darkness, SWAT members surrounded an apartment house in Berlin Township. Specially-trained sheriff’s deputies were able to look down on the standoff scene and determine how to get the woman living next door to a barricaded suspect out to safety.
“We were able to use the drone to identify where the individual was in the apartment but it also assisted in being able to evacuate another person in another attached apartment,” said Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene.
The sheriff’s office has been flying the drones over Lake Milton to help find missing boater, Kyle Alspaugh.
The technology has many uses, from searching for evidence of a possible homicide along the shore of Berlin Reservoir in June to assisting at the scene of a big industrial fire in Lowellville two months ago.
“We were actually able to use the heat sensor on the thermal camera on the drone to be able to direct the fire department where an additional hot spot was,” Greene said.
One of the drones was even used this week to keep an eye on the large crowd outside of Crickets Bar and Grill in Youngstown as the drawing for the Queen of Hearts game took place.
Recently, technicians put together a video presentation of the drones in flight for the sheriff’s display at the Canfield Fair later this month. There are clips showing officers looking for a marijuana growing operation in Trumbull County, searching for a suspect on the run following a chase, training exercises for the SWAT and Crisis Response teams, and even drones that can be used indoors for active shooter situations.
“Just the ability for that drone to be able to cover so much territory and acreage over a short period of time, it’s really been quite valuable to us,” Greene said.
He said about $20,000 has been spent on equipment and training since the pilots need to be FAA-certified. Greene said the cost was covered by drug forfeiture money, meaning no tax dollars were used.